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Worries over pollutants in water tanks

More than 24 hours after the HWP fire began, smoke was still in the air on St John’s Road yesterday.

Area residents who spoke with

The Royal Gazette expressed concern that chemicals released in the fire could have washed into their water tanks.

One St John’s Road man said he was at work when the fire began. He returned home to find his house blanketed with soot.

“I had got a phone call to tell me that the place [HWP] was on fire, but I didn’t think it was as big as it was,” he said. “When I saw the pictures online, I couldn’t believe it.

“It wasn’t until I was coming home over Berkeley Hill and they had the road blocked that I realised how serious it was.

“I didn’t reach home until around five. I had to come home to shut the windows.”

By that point, he said the smoke had already begun to die down and the damage had been done.

“Of course I’m concerned about what is on my roof, but it’s too late now,” he said.

“After the rain this morning, it’s already in the tank. What can you do?”

Another resident said he was at home on Monday when he saw thick black smoke roll past his window, blocking out the sunlight.

“The room just slowly got dark. I thought it was rain clouds until I looked out the window,” he said.

The man said he didn’t think about the roof water until yesterday morning, when it began to rain.

“We shut all the windows, but nobody thought about the roof. It didn’t sink in. It’s not something I think about,” the expatriate worker said.

“You can still smell the smoke. It hurts my eyes a little. Now it’s in the water.”

Government issued an advisory on Monday warning St John’s Road area residents to block up their downpipes to prevent soot from entering tanks.

A Ministry of Health spokeswoman yesterday advised that, in cases where the pipes were not blocked, common sense should be used in deciding if the tank should be cleaned.

A managing agent of one affected property said: “The cost to empty and clean our three large tanks will be significant.

“The cost for an average homeowner is also considerable at any time and certainly more so in this economy.

“The rain fell too swiftly this morning before we were made aware precautions should be taken. I imagine this to be true of most residents affected.”

Businesses directly across from HWP said that winds pushed the flames and smoke East, away from their buildings.

David Cassidy at Standard Hardware said that due to the hard work of the Bermuda Fire Service and the fortunate wind direction the business suffered no damage.

“If the wind was going in any other direction, the fire could have been devastating for the entire community,” he said. “We were all very fortunate. It’s all very terrible for HWP obviously, but it could have been much worse.”

Across the street at Rowe Spurling Paint Company, Karolina DaCosta made similar comments.

“The wind was very strong and it was blowing all the smoke over the field,” she said.

“We are in the same position as HWP. We have all sorts of chemicals in here, so we are very fortunate the fire didn’t spread to here.”

She added that she was not seriously concerned about possible pollution in the building’s water tank, saying nobody drinks the tank water.

Staff at the Woodlands Road business Positive Results saw the smoke soon after the fire started, but for an hour it appeared as though the wind was pushing the smoke away from their building.

However, at around 3pm one staff member said they had to shut the windows and turn off the air conditioning after they began smelling the smoke inside the building.

Island construction workers begin to tear down the HWP Garage and show room on St Johns Road after a masive fire that that totaly destroyed the building on Monday ( Photo by Glenn Tucker )

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Published August 10, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 10, 2011 at 9:03 am)

Worries over pollutants in water tanks

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